I recently wrote a book, 101 Mojitos & Other Muddled Drinks. Filled with lots of delicious riffs on the Mojito as well as Caipirinhas, Smashes, Cobblers, etc. If you want to see more recipes (I’ll be posting a few from the book on this blog), check it out. This particular post is all about getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes a great Mojito. So, if you want to “geek-out” on the Mojito, read on.
A Mojito is a pretty simple drink to make, but it is one that I see get butchered all the time. Too sour, too sweet, too strong, etc. There are some pretty important factors in making a good one – type of rum to use, muddling technique, the ice, using fresh lime juice – all important and I cover them in detail below – but THE most important factor in making a good one EVERY time is the ratio of ingredients. I see many a bartender taking liberties with the ingredients – amount of rum being used, throwing in lime juice without measuring it – not good things. It is a simple ratio of 2 oz rum, 1 oz lime juice, 1 oz simple syrup. 2-1-1. Use a jigger. If you don’t have one, buy one. You can get them on Amazon, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, etc. If you take anything away from this post, remember that ratio. If you get that ratio right, you can make a nearly perfect Mojito every time.
In making a classic Mojito, I would recommend a rum on the lighter end of the spectrum, for they play well with the lime juice and mint without overpowering it. There are many to choose from: Cruzan light rum, Bacardi, Flor de Cana 4 yr blanco rum, etc. 10 Cane rum is a great one – 90% is distilled from fresh pressed cane juice. The other 10% is a blend of aged rums. (FYI – it gets its name from the number of sugar cane stalks it takes to make one bottle.) You can also use flavored rums. Cruzan has a great variety of flavored rums that work great in a Mojito – my favorites are the mango and guava.
Some bartenders use actual sugar or even a demerara sugar in a Mojito — perfectly acceptable except it may not always dissolve. I prefer to use simple syrup (or sugar water) for several reasons: it’s easy to make; I can keep a bottle of it in the fridge for about a week, it’s cocktail-friendly, and I can easily batch up a pitcher of Mojitos with it.
1 part sugar: 1 part water
You can heat in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Take off heat, bottle and refrigerate. You can also just combine everything in a pitcher and keep stirring it until it dissolves. May take a minute or two of stirring, but it will dissolve.
A Mojito needs a really good amount of mint – about 10-15 mint leaves. Spearmint and Peppermint yield the strongest flavor and are the most widely available, however, there are some other varieties that work well too such as pineapple mint, chocolate mint, orange mint, julep mint, etc. (Once, I actually found Bob Marley mint at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Apparently, it was hybrid mint that was growing on Bob Marley’s stoop in Jamaica … or at least I thought it was mint … ) I keep a mint garden, boxed separately from my other herbs, and have about 4-5 different varieties.
The Lime Juice
You MUST use fresh lime juice in a Mojito. PLEASE, please do not use the lime juice in that plastic lime ball you find in the produce section of your grocery store. It’s ultra-pasteurized and extremely sour – a sorry remnant of what it once was. (FYI: One medium-sized lime yields about 1 oz lime juice.) Use a citrus squeezer. If you are shopping at your grocery store or Farmer’s market and have a bin of limes at your disposal, get the limes that are larger with thin, light green skin – they yield the most juice. Those smaller, harder ones (even though they look greener and “fresher”) are more tart and yield about half the juice as the other ones. Also, if you are going to use them the same day or even the following day, keep them out on your counter, not the fridge. Citrus fruits at room temperature also yield more juice – the cold ones are a little stingy. If they are cold, just pop them in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds to warm them up.
A muddler is a tool for bruising or crushing fruits and herbs. Nowadays you can find them almost anywhere. But, if you want a really good one, check out Mister Mojito. David Nepove has a variety of different muddlers to choose from. All great. Not cheap, but good. In a pinch, you can always use a mortar & pestle, end of a rolling pin or back of a spoon.
There are various muddling techniques I talk about in my Mojito book – The Press, The Citrus Crush, The Pulverizer and the Seattle Muddle. For a Mojito, I use The Press. The objective is just to bruise the mint to release the natural oils in the leaves. Hold the bottom of the glass on the table with one hand. Place the widest end of the muddler inside the glass, touching the mint. Press lightly – 5-6 presses should be sufficient. On so many occasions, I’ve seen bartenders muddling the be-jesus out of some mint – not necessary. In fact, if you over-muddle, it makes it bitter. Try chewing on a few pieces of mint leaves – gets pretty bitter and grassy very quickly.
Ideally, crushed ice works the best in a Mojito. It chills the drink very fast, acts as a sieve between the muddled components and your mouth and gives it a fast rate of dilution. That last point may seem like something you would not want, but in a Mojito, the dilution is key. You can actually make a dozen or so Mojitos with crushed ice, let it sit for about 20 minutes and it will still be a great drink. (It is at its peak when the frost forms on the outside of the glass.) If you don’t have crushed ice, no problem. Simply wrap some ice cubes up in a dish towel and give it a few good whacks with your muddler. It’s a great stress reliever. Or, you can buy a Lewis Bag, a canvas bag used for crushing ice.
10-15 mint leaves
1 oz lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
2 oz rum
splash of sparkling water
mint sprig, for garnish
Building the Mojito:
Step 1: Add the mint to the Collins glass.
Step 2: Add the lime juice and simple syrup.
Step 3. Muddle lightly
Step 4: Add the rum
Step 5: Top with crushed ice
Step 6: Add a splash of sparkling water and stir.
Step 7: Garnish with mint sprig and stir.
Voila! The Perfect Mojito!